This article originally appeared on VICE US.
A few months ago, I was suspended indefinitely from Twitter for threatening to kill Mr. Peanut. To be fair, this wasn’t my first time menacing the Planters mascot. Or my second or my third. By the time I was banned, I had been systematically harassing the peanut man for about four months. Sometimes, I promised to destroy him. Other times, I’d doctor a tweet to make it look like he'd done something you’d expect from someone super bourgeois or elitist—I once photoshopped a tweet suggesting that he would use his peanut empire money to avoid a military draft.
I targeted Mr. Peanut because I thought replying to a brand as though the brand were a real person was funny. Brands already act like real people on Twitter, so I decided to give a brand the same treatment almost everyone else receives on that platform: Strangers sending them death threats. And who better to harass than Mr. Peanut, the swaggering nut who looks like the artist who created him just put eyes and a mouth on whatever happened to be on his desk that day.
@MrPeanut only responded to me once, fairly early on in my journey, when I’m guessing whomever runs the account hadn't yet been briefed not to engage. It makes sense they didn’t keep responding, though. If I was them, I definitely wouldn’t have responded to the crazy person threatening to kill their fictional peanut monster either.
But otherwise, my game was going off without a hitch. That is, until May 31, when the monocled legume tweeted a nut-themed take on the phrase that made Bhad Bhabie famous. It read, “Cashew in the snack aisle how 'bout that.” Putting aside the fact that that particular reference was a few years beyond its expiration date, it was my duty, as ever, to take the nut man down.
I replied, “I will fly anywhere in the world to kill you. Just name the place.” But then, a strange thing happened. Bhad Bhabie replied to my tweet with a quick "thank you," and soon over 1,000 people had liked my post. A day later, I received a notice from Twitter that I'd been banned.
As far as I knew, I wasn’t breaking Twitter's terms and conditions. The rules they quoted in my suspension email stated, “You may not make specific threats of violence or wish for the physical harm...of an individual or group of people.” However, Mr. Peanut, in my mind, is neither an individual nor a group, because he’s not an actual person. He is the mascot of a corporation, and an anthropomorphic peanut, so I appealed on those grounds. Three weeks later, I received a response. Twitter support said that my account "posted content that was threatening and/or promoting violence”. The result was an indefinite suspension.
I’m fairly certain what finally got me banned was not the relentless threats of violence that I made against that peanut, but rather Bhad Bhabie’s response and the attention my tweet received in turn. I’m not surprised I was banned. I was using threatening language, and Twitter has algorithms that pick up systematic harassment. I am surprised, however, that my account is still banned, even after the appeal.
From the get-go, my one rule on this misadventure has been to only attack the character of Mr. Peanut, never the corporation or the human beings behind the account. In the more than 50 times I tweeted @MrPeanut, I never once made reference to anyone besides the peanut itself.
So, yeah, I’m mad. Of course I understand that in Twitter's opinion, what I was doing was against the rules. But come on, it’s Mr. Peanut! It’s hard not to question the loss of my right to free speech on the platform for pointing my vitriol at a fictional character, even if that fictional character is the mascot for a brand. But brands play a strange role in culture now. In an article in The Atlantic last year, the critic Ian Bogost wrote that there are, “new, personal bonds between companies and customers [that] feel uncanny – the brands are not real human friends, exactly, but neither are they faceless corporations anymore.” And when you are banned for having insulted one, it really starts to feel like social media companies at least, consider brands not only real, but also human.
The only thing I learned from being banned was that I’ll have to be more subtle with my jokes on my new account. (I’ll ask questions like why Mr. Peanut can’t afford more clothes than just a top hat and monocle, if he’s so rich). I'm still curious as to why Twitter would ban me when it has so many other real problems to worry about? Twitter has been under fire recently for their inaction on banning hate speech on the platform; it's possible my desire to fight a cartoon nut was just collateral damage?
The most messed up thing about this whole saga though, is that throughout my tireless fight against corporate America, getting banned for my bravery, and now trying to fight back, no one’s even asked me how much money I would pay Planters for one bare-knuckled round against Mr. Peanut. Just name your price.
You can still follow Luke on Instagram.